Occasionally in my daily readings I come across something that resonates and confirms my developing thoughts. Since I have been focusing on added value, reading a recent post by John Michel in the Switch and Shift blog caught my attention. It brings an affirming look at the process of discovering our value adding strengths and the potential in applying them. Here, then, is John’s post, verbatim from Switch and Shift (itself a worthy daily read) and reblogged with permission, although I do admit I added a couple of my own Notes.
There were once a brother and sister who were each given a gift. The boy, fearful his gift would be lost or stolen, chose to hide his gift under a rock to keep it safe. The girl, on the other hand, took her treasure and bought some seed.
The girl planted and cared for her seeds and soon found herself with a bountiful harvest. She took her goods to a market and sold them for a very tidy profit. With her profit she bought more supplies and equipment and planted even more seeds the next season.
The boy’s gift, in the meantime, remained secure under his rock.
The girl researched and implemented innovative ways to make better use of her acreage. At harvest time, she made an even bigger profit and set out to learn about supply and demand. She discovered how some goods have greater appeal to consumers and began planting those seeds that many people desired.
Her next harvest was the biggest yet and she chose to invest some of her money in buying better farming equipment. Due to her hard work and skill, her product began to be marketed and sold throughout the country. She became a very wealthy woman.
The boy’s gift, in the meantime, remained secure under his rock.
The girl chose not to simply accumulate her money and let it sit in a bank. Instead, she put it to work by establishing programs to help others learn how they too could use their gifts in ways that made the world around them better than they found it. She then built a school that taught business and economics and formed a charitable organization that would help others far and wide benefit from her original gift.
Meanwhile, the boy, who was now a man, still had his original gift. It was safely hidden under the same rock. While his sister grew to become very successful, blessing the lives of countless others with her gift, the boy’s life seemed stagnant and small. With his gift hidden from view, he risked little and achieved less. (Ed. Note: reread that last line again.) Falling far short of ever really knowing how things may have been different if he too chose to do as his sister and use his gift to build value into his surroundings.
We all possess unique gifts, talents, and skills meant to be used to help make our world better than we found it.
As this modern day parable of the Talents is designed to remind us, we all possess unique gifts, talents, and skills meant to be used to help make our world better than we found it. When we make it a priority to do as the girl in our story and generously share our natural abilities, everyone benefits. Conversely, when we choose to do as the boy and hide or hoard our talents, everyone loses.
Unfortunately, instead of seeing talent as merely the unique contribution we all have to share with the world, it’s common to associate talent only with a celebrated few. We look at someone like LeBron James swaying and knifing his way to the basket, and marvel at his brilliance. Deep down, we know the secret weapon of his success is his talent. A talent he employs liberally to the fascination of anyone who watches him play.
In the same way millions of people marvel at LeBron’s incredible talent, we look to a host of other celebrities, Al Pacino, Tiger Woods, Gary Phelps, Adele Adkins and Julia Roberts, for example, and we think the same thing: they possess incredible talent. They are blessed with an amazing gift. For most of us then, such talent seems a rare and precious thing, bestowed on a small handful of special, far-away people. They are different, these people with talent. They are “not us.”
I beg to differ.
Instead of adopting such a narrow, specialized understanding of talent, how would things be different in the world if we viewed talent as less a matter of genetic disposition and more a reflection of purposeful determination? The emphasis here is on the word “purposeful.”
How would things be different in the world if we viewed talent as less a matter of genetic disposition and more a reflection of purposeful determination?
Be it your fascination with risk, your passion for serving, or your commitment to exploring, questioning and recreating the current state of affairs, putting your talent to work is about intentionally and productively leveraging your natural strengths to add tangible value to your surroundings (Ed. Note: that is an incredibly concise definition of Added Value). It’s choosing to liberally share the best of you with everyone around you.
How can you get started using your unique talent to make a one-of-a-kind contribution to a waiting world? Begin by seeking out opportunities to:
- Tap into your creative leanings and natural inclinations. By feeding and answering the call to apply yourself in new and novel ways, you improve the quality of your own life while concurrently enriching the lives of those around you. Conversely, denying yourself the opportunity to stretch outside your comfort zone in the direction of your dreams can lead to stagnation and frustration.
- Tap into your potential to create something of beauty or significance. Jim Elliot once shared “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain which he cannot lose.” What he is speaking of is the reality that too many people only dream about what could be instead of using their talents to materialize a solution. When you get busy transforming your natural talents into a tangible form that can be enjoyed, experienced and shared by others, everyone wins.
- Tap into your original, best you. All of us possess the ability to do something nobody else can. We all have a special strength capable of adding immense value to our surroundings. “If you were meant to cure cancer or write a symphony or crack cold fusion and you don’t,” asserts author Steve Pressfield in The War of Art, “you not only hurt yourself, even destroy yourself; you hurt your children. You hurt me. You hurt the planet.” Doing your best work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the actor. It’s a gift to the world and every being in it. Don’t cheat humanity of your one-of-a kind contribution. Generously give all you’ve got. Everyone you encounter will be the better for it.
Each of us is born with talents that we are free to share or to hide. When we liberally share our best selves with others, we foster growth, enhance happiness and promote posterity. And as a result, the world literally becomes a different place. However, when we choose to hide our talents, we deny everyone the opportunity to experience us at our best.
Don’t cheat those around you. Give the world the best of what’s inside you. Tap your talent and do what only you can.
Why not start today?
John Michel is a widely recognized expert in culture, strategy & individual and organizational change. The senior-curator for GeneralLeadership.com, he is an accomplished unconventional leader and proven status quo buster who has successfully led several multi-billion dollar transformation efforts. His award-winning work has been featured in a wide variety of articles and journals, including the Harvard Business Review. In addition to serving our nation as an active duty General Officer in the United States Air Force, John enjoys helping people learn to walk differently in the world so they can become the best version of themselves possible. He is blessed to be married to the most patient person on the planet and together, they have two amazing sons. You are encouraged to learn more about John at his website, www.MediocreMe.com